Scotland’s beaches and bays may be beautiful, but even in yesterday’s boiling weather the chilly water temperature tends to mean a quick paddle is all most of us can handle.

Now, however, a new snorkel trail aims to encourage more of us to slip into an extra-cosy wetsuit, grit our teeth and head beneath the waves. 

Apparently, once our teeth have stopped chattering in Scottish water, which barely ever tops 20C, there’s a hidden world to discover of colourful anemones, orange-shaded ballan wrasse, leopard-spotted gobies and submerged rockpools that teem with life and floaty seaweed. 

The new trail, featuring some of Berwickshire’s best snorkelling spots at five favourite beaches and bays, has been unveiled by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and Berwickshire Marine Reserve. 

It spotlights shallow areas suitable for beginners and rocky outcrops for advanced snorkelers to explore within the Berwickshire Marine Reserve, which covers eight kilometres of coastline between the historic fishing towns of St Abbs Head and Eyemouth. 


Ballan wrasse (Labrus bergylta) can be found.

The five sites include popular Eyemouth Beach and Coldingham Bay, where snorkelers who head below the surface could encounter crabs and squat lobsters lurking in underwater rock pools and forests of kelp which provide shelter for an array of fish species. 

According to Lyle Boyle, the Berwickshire Marine Reserve Ranger who has helped compile the trail, the chilly water is soon forgotten by most who take the plunge and find themselves spectators to a previously unseen world of marine activity.

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“People might look at the North Sea, and see a cold, dark and dangerous water,” he says. “They don’t imagine that there’s a bountiful array of sealife bursting with different colours out there. 

“There are kelp forests that provide a habitat for all kinds of fish species, molluscs, cuttlefish, even squid at different times of the year.”

Scotland’s top sea temperatures of 17C were recorded in Kirkcudbright and at Gretna yesterday – still almost  icy when compared to a balmy 27C in Cyprus, or the 28C in Antalya in Turkey. 

But while the water may be chilly, Mr Boyle says the North Sea coastline has its share of soft corals in shades of orange and purple, dahlia anemones of maroon, pink and orange, and dusky pink coloured sea urchins, he adds.

 “This new trail is designed to open people’s eyes to the rich range of life that can be found below the surface of the North Sea,” he added. 

“Our coastal waters hold great wonders and by providing new ways for people to explore them we hope to raise awareness of the importance of the marine reserve.”

For years the Berwickshire coastline was a hub for divers and snorkelling fans, with as many as 25,000 visitors a year heading to its waters. 

However, cheap holidays abroad and the lure of warmer waters are thought to have tempted many away. 

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“Recreational divers came here in huge numbers for a long time because of the quality of the water and the abundance of sea life,” says Mr Boyle. 

“There was a time when you couldn’t park in St Abbs for the number of divers trying to get in. Cheaper flights and the curiosity of visiting other places came in and many headed away.”


A black brittle-star (Ophiocomina nigra).

Local diving shops are still in business and offer first-time snorkelers the essential equipment for dipping below the water.

Unlike snorkelling in the Med in swimwear and a plastic tube, they are encouraged to wear 5mm wetsuits, fins, a mask, gloves and hoods. 

Once in the water, Mr Boyle insists they quickly warm up. “I have spent over an hour in the water,” he says. “It’s only when you come out, pull off the wetsuit and the wind hits that it gets a bit chilly.”

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The trail is the third snorkel route produced by the Scottish Wildlife Trust. One covers six sites on Harris, including Hushinish, Aird Asaig, Loch Mhàraig and Seilamol Bay, while a trail for the north-west Highlands takes in an area to the immediate north and south of Ullapool. 

It includes Gruinard Bay where there are rare and fragile populations of maerl – coralline red algae – and Mellon Charles where the water beneath a former Second World war pier is said to be thriving with anemone, wrasse and urchins.

Noel Hawkins, Living Seas community manager, Scottish Wildlife Trust said: “People often associate snorkelling with exotic locations like the Caribbean, but Scotland’s seas have just as much to offer, even if they are a few degrees colder.”